We have to wait just a bit longer for Uzumaki‘s anime debut which means fans of horror manga-ka Junji Ito can add another hardcover or two to their collection. The Sensor manga is a six-chapter story readers may find a touch less gruesome than some of his other works. He’s taken a unique natural phenomenon and woven those threads to create an avatar of light and hope in an oftentimes dark and greedy world.
Something in the ether draws Kyoka Byakuya to the remote village of Kiyokami in the Sensor manga. Nestled near Mount Sengoku, the area is covered in wispy strands of volcanic hair from an eruption over 60 years prior. Volcanic hair, more commonly known as Pele’s hair, occurs when a volcano erupts and tiny droplets of lava cool into fine strands of glassy black fiber. These strands get caught in the wind and find their way into treetops, electric and telephone poles, and the like. But Kiyokami is carpeted in a golden variation. According to some, it is the golden hair of a Christian missionary executed alongside everyone in the village.
The residents of Kiyokami call these threads amagami and insist it grants them clairvoyance and the ability to connect to the universe itself. They’ve known Kyoka was coming. A space has been prepared for her and they revere her as some might an angel or prophet. All of this causes Kyoka concern, but before she can leave, Mount Sengoku erupts once more and leaves her the sole survivor. What’s more, her once black hair is now just as gold as the amagami.
Kyoka’s story, partially relayed via a reporter named Wataru Tsuchiyado as he searches for our heroine, uses its gimmick well. Strands of “hair” link communities together, heightening that sense of belonging to something larger than oneself. But people are drawn to power such as this. Some start off with the best of intentions, while others wish to wield it for supremacy over others. Ito-san explores this theme using science and religion as the backdrop, as well as mankind’s pursuit of the meaning of life.
I wouldn’t call the Sensor manga a light read. While it isn’t as dark and horrific as some of Ito’s more macabre stories, this tale leans heavily into the sense of community as seen with the residents of Kiyokami as well as a cult that believes strongly in the existence of the Akashic Records. Many of the pages feature beautiful scenery. Kyoka’s hike and entrance to Kiyokami, as well as her standing on the cliffs at Bishagaura are the most vivid in my mind. That said, those moments where Ito draws the gory scenes he’s best known for are just as eye-popping and stomach turning as ever.
Come to think of it, Sensor was published in Japan around the same time Death Stranding was released. And we know there’s a strand connecting him with Hideo Kojima, as evidenced by Ito’s role as the Engineer in the game. Is Sensor the result of these two creators sitting in a room together discussing their craft? Oh, to be a fly on the wall for that hypothetical meeting of the minds! But that’s just my theory.
Junji Ito’s Sensor manga will be available in hardcover from Viz on August 17, 2021.